by Marie-Laure Dekeyzer
In the most recent wage agreement, the Federal Government decided that the wage standard is 0% for the 2023 to 2024 period. That means that in principle, employers are not permitted to assign their staff voluntary wage increases in this period. An exception has been provided for employers achieving an (exceptionally) high profit in 2022.
They are able to assign a purchase-power premium of €750 at most, in the form of consumption cheques.
That purchase-power premium benefits from favourable treatment:
The purchase-power premium has been ruled out for the normal NOSS contribution for the employer and the employee. The employer nevertheless owes a special 16.5% contribution.
The purchase-power premium is not taxed on the part of the employee.
The purchase-power premium, including the special 16.5% contribution, is deemed a professional expense on the part of the employer.
Legislators have only set out a general framework and maximum amounts, meaning at present it is first down to the joint committee to define what they understand by an (exceptionally) high profit, and to establish the conditions for assigning, and the amounts.
While not all joint committees have yet done so, the most important ones already having established this can be found below.
Belgium’s largest join committee was one of the first to announce the conditions.
Type of profit
In 2022 (*), the ratio of the operating profit (code 9901 annual accounts) regarding the balance-sheet total is at least 1.25 x the average of that same ratio of the years 2019 to 2021.
The operating profit in 2022 is at least 5% of the 2022 balance-sheet total.
€ 125 consumption cheque
‘Exceptionally’ high profits
In 2022 (*), the ratio of the operating profit regarding the balance-sheet total is at least 1.5 x the average of that same ratio of the years 2019 to 2021.
€ 250 consumption cheque
In 2022 (*), the ratio of the operating profit compared to the balance-sheet total was at least 2 x the average of that same ratio of the years 2019 to 2021.
€ 375 consumption cheque
(*) General comment: 2022 refers to the financial year of which the majority of months are in 2022. If the financial year ends on 30 June, the financial year closing in 2022 must be taken into account.
Office workers who had on 31 October been employed for at least one month will receive consumption cheques based on the working hours performed – and some equalisations – in the reference period from 01/11/2022 to 31/10/2023 inclusive.
If the conditions have been met, the employer must take the following timing into account:
15.11.2023 at the latest: the employer must send a written communication to the trade union delegate(s) in the company or, if there are none, directly to the office workers regarding the assignment of the premium.
31.12.2023 at the latest: the purchase-power premium must have been assigned.
The conditions for the construction sector are also known.
Type of profit
The ratio of the operating profit in 2022 (code 9901 annual accounts) is at least 1.15 x the average profit in the previous three financial years closed (*).
Total amount of the premium is only permitted to be a maximum 15% of the 2022 operating profit.
€ 250 consumption cheque
‘Exceptionally’ high profits
The ratio of the operating profit in 2022 is at least 1.25 x the average profit in the previous three financial years closed (*).
€ 500 consumption cheque
The ratio of the operating profit in 2022 is at least 1.5 x the average profit in the previous three financial years closed (*).
€ 750 consumption cheque
(*) General comments:
Loss-making years are not taken into account for calculating the average profit. Where necessary, the average is calculated by the sum of the profits in the profit-making financial years, to be divided by the number of profit-making financial years. Companies not posting a profit in any of the previous three financial years closed are excluded, and must not assign any purchase-power premium.
If the financial year does not correspond to the 2022 calendar year, the financial year closing in 2022 is considered.
The purchase-power premium is assigned to all workers employed on 1 December 2023, occurring on a pro-rata basis of the work performed at the employer that is to assign the purchase-power premium.
For full-time workers according to the number of days actually worked in 2022 / 219;
For part-time workers according to the number of days actually worked in 2022 / 1752.
The payment must occur in December 2023.
If your company comes under a joint committee other than those above, you can enquire with your file manager on whether an agreement is now in place on a sector level.
Should this not (yet) be the case, you can opt to make a decision at company level on assigning your staff a purchase-power premium. Although in this case, you must account for your company achieving good results in 2022. There are also mandatory formalities, such as concluding a company CBA or signing an individual agreement with each employee involved. We can provide further information in this regard, if you wish.
What we recommend for the time being is to wait, since a great deal of sectoral negotiations are still underway. This is to prevent you as an employer from having to assign a purchase-power premium twice: once on a voluntary basis, and a second time if it later transpires that a sectoral CBA is still on its way, whereby you comply with the sectoral conditions for assigning. This might even result in the maximum amount – € 750 per employee – being exceeded, thus negating the advantageous treatment. Precaution against acting too quickly is therefore advised.
You still have time to present the consumption cheques to your staff by 31.12.2023 at the latest. If you meet your joint committee’s profit conditions, you are in that case obliged to assign consumption cheques. Forward us this information in a timely manner to enable us to place the order in time. If we have not received any communication from you before 10.12.2023, we will assume that the profit condition was not fulfilled, and that no consumption cheques are to be distributed in December. You can also present us with any questions you might have concerning a sectoral CBA.
If you are unsure whether one of the conditions in the sectoral CBA have been met, please verify this with your accountant or through your Vandelanotte payroll advisor.
In our opinions, we rely on current legislation, interpretations and legal doctrine. This does not prevent the administration from disputing them or from changing existing interpretations.
Read our latest insights and news releases to stay abreast of changes in your industry.